Household Words was an English weekly magazine edited and co-owned by Charles Dickens in the 1850s.
Dickens was a big fan of Shakespeare and named it after a line from Henry V “Familiar in his mouth as household words.” The journal contained a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. A large amount of the non-fiction dealt with the social issues of the time and debates about issues such as crime, education and housing.
Household Words was published every week from March 1850 to May 1859. Each number cost a more affordable two pence, thereby ensuring a wider readership.
A Child’s History of England.
A Child’s History of England is a book by Charles Dickens that first appeared in serial form in Household Words, running from January 25 1851 to December 10 1853. Dickens dedicated the book to “My own dear children, whom I hope it may help, bye and bye, to read with interest larger and better books on the same subject”. The history covered the period between 50 BC and 1689, ending with a chapter summarising events from then until the accession of Queen Victoria.
In order to boost slumping sales, Dickens serialized his own novel, Hard Times, in Household Words, in weekly parts between April 1 and August 12, 1854. It had the desired effect, more than doubling the journal’s circulation.
A number of other significant articles written by Charles Dickens were published in Household Words, including the following which you can read at The Circumlocution Office (in chronological order):
- The Amusements of the People (Pt. 1) (March, 1850). Explored popular theatre, with a visit to the Royal Victoria.
- The Begging-Letter Writer. (March, 1850). Article about being plagued by begging-letters (as Dickens had been since achieving national fame).
- The Amusements of the People (Pt. 2) (April, 1850). Another article of the same name exploring popular theatre, this time with a visit to The Britannia, a popular saloon theatre in London’s east-end.
- Pet Prisoners (April, 1850).
- The Heart of Mid-London (May, 1850). An attack on the Smithfield live meat market. Co-authored piece.
- A Walk in a Workhouse (25 May 1850). A Walk in a Workhouse. Describes a visit to a workhouse.
- A December Vision (December, 1850). An article criticising Victorian institutions for their inability to solve social issues of poverty and disease.
- Red Tape (15 February, 1851). An article criticising bureaucracy.
- A Monument of French Folly (March, 1851). Another attack on the Smithfield live meat market with comparisons to Paris.
- The Guild of Literature and Art (10 May, 1851). Promoting a philanthropic institution of that name that Dickens heavily involved himself with.
- On Duty with Inspector Field (14 June, 1851). Looked at the work of Inspector Charles Frederick Field of Scotland Yard.
- What Christmas is, as we Grow Older. (25 December, 1851). Article about Christmas written for the 1851 Christmas special edition.
- Drooping Buds (April, 1852). Describes a visit to the newly founded Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street. Co-authored piece.
- A Sleep to Startle Us (13 March, 1852). Exploring ragged (poor) schooling.
- Drooping Buds (3 April 1852). Describing a visit to the then newly founded Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street. Co-written with Henry Morley.
- Down with the Tide (February, 1853).
- Received a Blank Child (March 13, 1853). A look at the Foundling Hospital. Co-authored piece.
- Home for Homeless Women (April, 1853). A look at Urania Cottage, the home for fallen women set-up by Dickens and Angela Burdett-Coutts.
- In and Out of Jail (14 May, 1853). A review of the book Crime: Its Amount, Causes, and Remedies by Frederic Hill. Co-written by Charles Dickens, Henry Morley and William Henry Wills.
- On Strike (11 February, 1854). An account of the Lancashire mill strikes following Dickens visit to Preston two weeks earlier.
- A Nightly Scene in London (January, 1856).
Other notable articles by other others published in Household Words, and featured on our site, include:
- London Pauper Children by Frederick Knight Hunt (31 August, 1850). Article describing the pauper children’s home at Norwood, Surrey.
Publication of Household Words ended in 1859 following a disagreement between Dickens and his co-owners and publishers, Bradbury and Evans. Dickens response was to set up a new publication, All the Year Round, and take his publishers to court for control of the title (which he later won).